Japan coach Zico on Monday recalled strikers Atsushi Yanagisawa and Tatsuhiko Kubo and picked defender Yuji Nakazawa for the first time since taking over the national team as he named a 23-man squad for the Aug. 20 friendly against Nigeria.

News photoJapan Under-22 player Naohiro Ishikawa fights for the ball with
two members of the Egyptian Under-22s during their match at the International Football
Olympic Teams Championship.

Along with newly signed Sampdoria striker Yanagisawa, the 50-year-old Brazilian called up the bulk of his overseas players, including Italian-based midfielders Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura and Hamburg SV striker Naohiro Takahara, for the match at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

“I’ve been monitoring his (Yanagisawa’s) progress since he recovered from injury and feel he is getting back to his best and is mentally stronger since moving to Italy,” said Zico.

Yokohama F. Marinos striker Kubo has scored eight goals in the J. League this season, while Nakazawa also played a key role in helping Takeshi Okada’s side win the first-stage title.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse defender Daisuke Ichikawa, a member of last year’s World Cup squad, earned his first call-up under Zico, and Yokohama’s Naoki Matsuda returns, but veteran Kashima Antlers defenders Yutaka Akita and Akira Narahashi and Jubilo Iwata’s Toshihiro Hattori were all left out.

Urawa Reds pair Nobuhisa Yamada and Keisuke Tsuboi, Shimizu’s Alessandro Santos and Gamba Osaka’s Tsuneyasu Miyamoto are set to start at the back in front of Nagoya Grampus Eight goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki.

Zico, who has managed just two wins in 10 games since replacing Frenchman Philippe Troussier, made wholesale changes in defense after Japan was hammered 4-1 at home to Argentina in June.

“The changes I made have worked well so I’ve decided to stick with the same back line,” said Zico.

“But no one is guaranteed a regular place and there is no need for the players who have been omitted this time to feel disappointed,” he added.

Nakata, Nakamura, Fulham’s Junichi Inamoto and Yasuhito Endo of Gamba Osaka will form the midfield, with Takahara spearheading the attack alongside Cerezo Osaka hotshot Yoshito Okubo.

Zico called on his players to play with the same pride and spirit that the African players show when representing their country.

“I want the players to learn from the Africans and show the same pride and mental strength. The (2006) World Cup qualifiers are not too far away so every game is important,” he said.

Japan was set to face Nigeria in the Kirin Cup earlier this month but the Africans pulled out after the Nigerian government in May forbade the team to travel to Japan because of concerns about the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

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